The rise of age-friendly universities
The age-friendly university movement is on the up. Source: Shutterstock

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You’re never too old to learn?”

Dublin City University’s Age Friendly University Initiative certainly has.

Enhancing the lives of older members of their community through innovative education programmes, research and civic engagement, the university is an active part of the AFU Global Network.

Abiding by the network’s strict 10 principles, certified age-friendly universities such as DCU promise to carry out positive actions, such as:

1. Encouraging the participation of older adults in all the core activities of the university, including educational and research programmes.

2. Promoting personal and career development in the second half of life and support those who wish to pursue second careers.

3. Recognising the range of educational needs of older adults (from those who were early school-leavers through to those who wish to pursue Master’s or PhD qualifications).

4. Promoting intergenerational learning to facilitate the reciprocal sharing of expertise between learners of all ages.

5. Widening access to online educational opportunities for older adults to ensure a diversity of routes to participation.

Integrating the benefits of intergenerational learning (IL)

Learning doesn’t have a time limit, so why are there still universities shunning older students away from their courses with rigid age regulations?

Spreading the love of lifelong learning, IL is an effective way to enhance intergenerational solidarity and to increase student diversity in the lecture hall.

Imagine a seminar with learners of all ages and backgrounds. Now imagine an important academic debate taking place in the centre of that seminar.

Contributing a range of angles, perspectives and real-world experiences, the older generation of learners could provide great context and creativity to that debate, while the younger generation could shed light on emerging trends and supply a great deal of curiosity.

This act of knowledge-sharing would leave all seminar participants with a sense of fulfillment. With broader minds and mutually beneficial discussions, it would be an effective way to address a number of issues and build communities among both older and younger learners.

Supporting second careers

If you’re concerned about becoming a graduate career changer, don’t worry!

Students aged 60 and over are still considering a career change, regardless of societal expectations or the pressure of retirement.

By supporting second careers, age-friendly universities are showing all their students that it’s never too late to acquire new skills or test out a different professional sector.

Despite ageism in the workplace, there are still going to be companies out there that are against age discrimination and value the variety of talent.

Bringing with them a wide scope of knowledge, older students may also bring a large amount of global awareness.

Never to old to learn or travel, an elderly British student going to study business at an age-friendly university in the United States will transfer knowledge of the UK economy, whole the individual evolves into an inquisitive international student with dynamic perspectives.

If they choose to study history and come equipped with real-world experience of important past events, imagine the insight they can bring to the lecture hall!

Ultimately, you’re never too old to refine your creativity and should never shy away from things you’ve always wanted to do.

There’s no time limit, only societal pressure.

And with the number of age-friendly universities growing (51 colleges and universities are now part of the Age-Friendly University Global Network) and positive impact spreading, AFU may be the latest trend to transform the education sector.

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